I proposed to my wife, Abby, one frigid February evening, and we immediately found ourselves on the fast track to marriage. Desiring to begin our life together as soon as possible, we opted for a short engagement. Come July—a mere five months later—we would be husband and wife. Back then I had little knowledge of the wedding industry or traditional 12-month engagement timelines, and we quickly encountered more frustration and stress than we had anticipated. Yet, despite what you might read on wedding blogs or websites, it is completely possible to plan a beautifully meaningful wedding day and prepare for marriage in 6 months or less. My hope is that the lessons I learned while planning my own wedding and my experiences as a wedding photographer will help you think effectively and creatively about crafting your own wedding day on an abbreviated timeline.
Book a Wedding Planner
If your budget allows, hire a wedding planner ASAP—it’s a simple as that. Wedding planners are amazing—they are highly knowledgeable about the local wedding market and well connected to talented vendors. An excellent wedding planner will alleviate the burden of a shortened timeline and help you bring your vision to life.
Enlist the Help of Your Community
If hiring a planner isn’t feasible due to budget constraints (this was the case for us), get organized, divide your tasks, and enlist the help of friends and family. Our brother-in-law built us custom wood centerpieces, Abby’s nana baked her authentic Serbian baklava for our reception, and an experienced friend served as our day-of coordinator.
Prioritize Before Setting a Date
Before setting your date, take time to prioritize the various aspects of your wedding so you don’t unintentionally limit your options. Abby and I, for example, set our date based on our venue’s availability only to later discover that 1. photography was incredibly important to us, and 2. many of our preferred local photographers were already booked on our date. Had we realized earlier that photography was a top priority, we could have selected a date based on our preferred photographer’s availability. Whatever it is for you—the photographer, the venue, the planner, the videographer, etc.—set your priorities first, then set your date accordingly.
Leverage the Power of Referrals
Word-of-mouth vendor referrals are pure gold and can save you countless hours online research. Get recommendation lists from other engaged couples, newlywed friends and even other vendors to jumpstart your searches.
Think Outside the Box
Abby and I found ourselves coming up against couples who had been slowly crafting their celebration for a year or more, leaving a vendor landscape that felt largely picked over. In confronting this frustrating truth, we found the inspiration to think creatively, making our wedding more meaningful and personal to us than it would have likely been otherwise. Here are two ideas to get you thinking outside the box:
Once you expand your search beyond traditional venues, many beautiful possibilities open up. While we ultimately went another route, Abby and I seriously considered a backyard wedding at her childhood home. If you are drawn to locations that hold personal significance, brainstorm private properties, farms, forests, summer cottages, etc. that may be available to you through a friend or relative. Airbnbs can help broaden your reach, plus they can double as free accommodation for your family or wedding party. There are also many public spaces, beaches and national parks with ceremony sites available for a small fee.
A wedding dress is often one of the most important pieces that can take months to find, order, arrive and alter. Note that bridal shops and designers may be able to accommodate a last-minute order at an additional cost. To work within our time and budget allowances, Abby searched for her dress at local bridal consignment shops, ultimately finding and leaving with her dress on the same day.
Simplify Your Vision
Grant yourself the freedom to include or forgo traditions as you see fit. Simplifying your ceremony and reception according to your unique vision will save you time and energy during the planning process, as well as help you craft a celebration that is personally meaningful to the two of you.
Keep a Healthy Perspective
For many couples, wedding planning is a uniquely stressful season. In the midst of all the to-do lists and mounting pressure, don’t lose sight of what really matters in all this: your marriage. Set aside intentional time to continue investing in your relationship, and do the hard work to prepare for your future as a married couple. Abby and I were helped by premarital counseling sessions with an older couple from our church, as well the wisdom of Tim & Kathy Keller’s book on marriage.
If you’re an engaged couple reading this: congratulations! Marriage is a life-altering commitment unlike any other that demands constant care and sacrifice, yet it’s overflowing with deeper joy than you know, and I believe with all my heart that it’s worth it. I wish you every blessing on your path to marriage and in the years ahead. If you have questions specific to your unique wedding planning process, feel free to comment below or email me here. I don’t have all the answers, but I promise I will help in any way I can. Cheers!